Aviation industry charts a global approach for airport slots in Summer 2021

Patrick Lucas by Patrick Lucas | Dec 1, 2020

Slot allocation policies must foster the industry’s capacity to sustain recovery.

In light of the recovery of air traffic, the Worldwide Airport Slot Board (WASB) identified the need to chart a globally compatible recommendation on the reinstatement of airport slot usage requirements for the upcoming Summer 2021 season.

The WASB is the body tasked with developing global slot rules. It comprises a total of 21 representatives, with equal numbers from the global airport, airline, and slot coordination communities.

The WASB recommends the gradual reinstatement of normal airport slot utilization policy

The main points of the WASB recommendation for the Summer season (March to October 2021) are as follows:

  • full series of slots returned by carriers before 8 February 2021 would receive a waiver
  • carriers who pick up these series and operate them on a non-historic basis would have priority over any new demand for that series the following year, if the original carrier does not operate them
  • slots retained after 8 February 2021 would be subject to a slot usage requirement threshold of 50:50 with no double-dip
  • specific Justified Non-Utilization of Slots (Force Majeure) provisions for flights cancelled due to restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, and
  • alleviation measures will not apply to slots held by airlines permanently ceasing operations at airport.

The WASB recommendation recognizes that regulatory authorities may adapt the threshold to the circumstances and needs of their local market and specifies that implementation is subject to local legal approval.

Airport slot alleviation measures for Northern Summer 2021
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An approach responsive to the needs of the airport community at global level

The global WASB recommendation is a strong compromise that caters for both the needs and interests of airports and airlines in the recovery. There are three main pillars to this recommendation:

1. Ensuring global compatibility and consistency: it enables a coordinated reinstatement of slot usage requirements. Airport slot allocation requires compatible processes at both ends of air routes, in a context where most slot-controlled airports are predominantly international airports. The recommendation provides for a globally consistent gradual reinstatement of normal slot utilization rules.

2. Protecting pre-COVID-19 networks and connecting banks: it provides incentives for the early return of full series of slots prior to the start of the season, enabling the reallocation of slots to other airlines willing to operate. For airports, essential planning information will be available earlier as airlines need to make a decision by 8 February 2021 to benefit from alleviation. It further protects connectivity and banks as slots used to serve markets that are not recovering can be protected.

3. Enabling the post-COVID-19 new normal and competition: it starts enabling the post-COVID-19 new normal. Carriers that are ready to fly and serve the demand through the operation of flights on a non-historic basis in summer 2021 will receive priority in following seasons.

Airports are committed to partnership for airport slot policy development

While slot allocation policies from the WASB are intended as best practice for worldwide application, the circumstances and needs faced by airports in their local markets vary.

ACI and the airport operators are committed to further advance and continuously improve slot processes and policies responsive to the needs of the travelling public, in close cooperation with airlines and slot coordinators through the WASB.

ACI’s 30th World Annual General Assembly reflected this commitment by issuing a Resolution titled: Ensuring that airport slot allocation policies support the recovery of air transport.

Approval of Resolution ensuring that airport slot allocation
policies support the recovery of air transport
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Patrick Lucas

Patrick Lucas

Vice President Economics, ACI World
An economist by profession, Patrick has over 20 years of international experience in analytical posts. In his role as Vice President, Economics, he leads ACI’s policy positions related to economic regulation and charges, privatization, taxation, commercial activities, infrastructure management, and airport slots. He is responsible for ACI’s major flagship publications – The World Airport Traffic Report and the Airport Economics Report. He also oversees the production of ACI’s World Airport Traffic Forecasts and Airport Economics Key Performance Indicators. Lastly, Patrick delivers courses in Airport Economics as a member of ACI’s Global Training Faculty. Prior to joining ACI, Patrick worked for a United Nations statistical office where he contributed to major global reports aimed at monitoring economic and social progress.
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